Brown Girl Bosses: Shivani Persad and Her Journey of Balancing the Best of Both Worlds
If you tuned into our IG Live with Shivani Persad, better known as @LiveShiv, you were in for a treat!
Shivani gave us the complete run down of what it means to be both a model and a social activist in one. She has broken down many of the barriers that Indo-Caribbean women have faced in their lives due to stigmas and cultural expectations. Through many trials and tribulations, she took us on a journey of how she became Shivani Persad; the model, the moderator of her own podcast More Than a Model, and the founder of a digital storytelling company called Live Shiv Media.
Shivani shared with us one of the most damaging messages she believed she had received in her life. The message was: NOT ACCEPTED. When she was not accepted into graduate school to complete her masters, Shivani felt like she hit rock bottom. Her heart sank and life was over for her.
However, this pivotal moment changed her life.
“I really had no other plan…when I got home and got this opportunity … I decided to take a chance, and I moved to London a 4 month contract.”
As a model, she describes this experience as no other. She was able to see the fashion industry as a form of art and a powerful movement. She travelled to different parts of the world and worked with some of the biggest names in the industry including Fenty and Victoria Beckham. She learned more and more about herself after each shoot. One of the most enriching parts of modelling was the women she met; who were also some of the smartest women. It was a story she wanted to share.
Shivani and a friend of hers, Samantha Bolger, founded a podcast titled “More than a Model” where they focus on telling the personal stories of models. It was important for Shivani to put together this podcast to help tell their stories outside of the modelling world. They have hosted over 25 women from many different backgrounds.
Her passion for telling the stories of people led her to found her own media company called Live Shiv Media. One of the first projects Shivani did with Live Shiv Media was a project around the concept “shadism.” When we think about the ideas surrounding shadism, she shared that growing up she felt like being a darker skinned brown woman always put her in a box. When she became a model, she began receiving powerful messages from women who shared how seeing her on billboards impacted them and their daughters.
“This really helped me understand my impact, and it became a lot about representation and why that was so important.”
Caribbean women are powerhouses, and this was the driving force of Shivani moving from a full time model, to both a model and a writer around social activism. With the support of her political science degree, travelling around the world helped her look at life from a critical but enriching perspective. She was able apply the impacts of social justices’, women of colour, and politics. She shared that the majority of the journalism industry is disproportionately white, and it was important for her to open that door for women of colour and offer understanding and real news to the world.
“We are very lucky to be where we are at right now with media and technology. The door is open right now and we need to take advantage.”
We spent some time discussing her recently published article with Flare magazine, Yes, Never Have I Ever Is a Win for Representation—But Not For All. When she first watched the show, she was angry with how some of the concepts were perceived, including the physically disabled and the LGBTQ community. Her initial reaction was to create a Tik Tok filled with anger. Her DM’s quickly became a center for heated discussions and little constructive solutions. When she became overwhelmed with emotions from the response, she decided to channel her energy into an article.
When putting the article together, Shivani constantly reminded herself that this experience was all about “unlearning.” She decided to put her personal views aside and thought about the topic through a progressive lens. She reached out to members in the community to decipher how the show could have been more inclusive to the real life experiences of these individuals.
As people of colour, she shares, a lot we do involves unlearning. Certain concepts are passed on to us culturally and shape our views, but they are not always the right way.
“Although I approached the article as positive, it didn’t happen right away. It was a journey for me to unlearn.”
Shivani Persad embodies her role as both a model and a writer, but most importantly, she is paving a way for the Indo-Caribbean community. We do not always come across women who find the courage to break barriers that we sometimes do not even realize exist. She is changing the game for the future Indo-Caribbean female leaders and does it with an open-mind and a clear intention.